The Latter Rain

From time to time, you will hear people talk about “The Latter Rain,” usually in the context of a revival that we are to expect just before the return of Jesus. The latter rain comes from the agricultural calendar of the people of Israel. As we are going through the Jewish calendar this year, it is an excellent opportunity for us to gain clarity on this subject.

The prophecy of Joel says:
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. (Joel 2:23, KJV)

Capturing the imagination

Joel 2 is cited by Peter during Pentecost, and the “latter rain” movement says that Pentecost was the “former rain,” and just before the return of Jesus, there will be a “latter rain,” a repeat and an amplification of Pentecost.

This has captured the imagination of many, and even people who do not belong to the Latter Rain movement somehow see the promise of a global super revival in the end-times. Let’s look at the text(s) concerning the latter rain to see if that is what it means.

Meaning of terms

The “former rain” refers to the autumn rain that comes starting October. It is a light rain that prepares the ground for planting and for the newly planted wheat to germinate and take root. The “latter rain” comes in spring to swell the grain and prepare it for harvest in late spring. I find it hard to understand Joel 2:23 because the latter rain (spring rain) is supposed to come “in the first month.” The reference to “the first month” makes no sense.

The solution is found in that the word “month” is supplied by the KJV translators, it does not exist in the Hebrew text. So we need to remove the word “month” to clarify the meaning. Most interpreters understand “in the first,” to mean “as before.” This means the latter (spring) rain will come as it did in the past, and God’s people will enjoy God’s blessings again. Most translations take this understanding, as seen in the NIV: “Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.”

Meaning in context

Joel’s message from the LORD comes in the wake of a devastating locust swarm (Joel 1:1-4). It is described as though it were an invading army (not an army described as locusts). Joel calls the people to lament and to look to God for deliverance. In the face of this disaster, the people plead with God.

18 Then the LORD was jealous for his land
and took pity on his people.
19 The LORD replied to them:
“I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil,
enough to satisfy you fully;
Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before.
24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
(Joel 2, NIV)

The message of the LORD through Joel is that they are not to be despondent because if they will resume planting, God will send them the autumn rain to make the planting productive, and the spring rain (latter rain) to make the harvest bounteous. There is nothing here to suggest the spring rain to be anything other than literal spring rain for a people desperate for help to recover from the devastating locust plague. Of course, we can apply this to God’s heart for his hurting people and find great relevance in this. But there is no hint this is about an end-time revival.

What follows

Peter quotes from Joel 2 during Pentecost saying it’s about the last days. Even a cursory reading will tell us why.

28 “And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.

32 And everyone who calls
on the name of the LORD will be saved;
(Joel 2, NIV)

AFTER the LORD has delivered the people from the locust plague, he will bring about a greater blessing. “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

Peter is explaining the second part of Joel’s blessings fulfilled at Pentecost. There will be a great blessing of God’s Spirit after the deliverance of the locust plague. This is the typical way prophecies of the future are given. The Lord addresses the then current situation, and adds, “By the way, this other thing will also happen before or after this.” For example, Micah (5:2) prophesies that their enemies will defeat them (current), but God will raise up a ruler born in Bethlehem, who will deliver them (future), whom all agree refers to the coming Messiah Jesus.

Joel comforts the people with God’s promise to bless the people with a fruitful harvest, and he says clearly, AFTER this blessing of the autumn and spring rain, there will be the blessing of the Spirit of God.

All the references to Latter Rain / Spring Rain

There are nine references to “latter rain” (“spring rain”) in the Bible: Deuteronomy 11:14; Job 29:23; Proverbs 16:15; Jeremiah 3:3; 5:24; Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23; Zechariah 10:1; James 5:7. Not a single reference to “latter/spring rain” refers to some great end-time revival before the coming of Jesus.

While there may be a Pentecost type revival in the end times, though that is in doubt, it is clear that if such a revival were to happen, it has nothing to do with the expression “latter/spring rain.” Prophecies concerning the return of Jesus must be approached with humility, not presumption. We can find information that would not fit together well. That is just like the first coming of Jesus. The Jewish people fumbled by rejecting the servant Messiah because it does not fit the king Messiah. Yet in Jesus, it is all fulfilled.

If we were to accept there will be an end-time revival (but not found in the “latter rain” expression), we must balance that against the prophecy that there will be a rebellion (or apostasy) before the Lord Jesus returns. The exact opposite of a revival. We know this because Paul assures the worried Thessalonians that they have not missed the coming of the Lord. He tells them, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3; cf Matthew 24:10-12).

Until there is a “rebellion,” or “falling away” the Lord will not return. What we do not know is the timeline. There can be both a rebellion and a revival, but at different times. From what Paul says, it appears that the rebellion will be one of the events that will happen at the very end, and it comes with the appearance of “the man of lawlessness” (which we cannot go into here).

Imagine the danger of assuming there will be a revival when instead there will be a falling away. Christians will then be embracing the work of the devil in the guise of a revival. (I speak hypothetically, I am not saying that the latter rain claims are advocated by people who are agents of the devil.) One of the worst mistakes we can make is to call the end-time rebellion the end-time revival.

The Latter Rain Movement

The idea that there will be a great revival before the return of Jesus began in the late 18th century, and the key belief is that the last days have arrived, Jesus is coming soon, and there will be Spirit baptism seen in tongues, prophecy, miracles, etc. This gave birth to the Pentecostal Movement (1900). In the second half of the 20th century, the Pentecostal Movement was losing steam and became greatly concerned. A Pentecostal group in Saskatchewan, Canada, experienced a revival, which is dubbed a “Latter Rain Revival.” This is followed by many other claims of latter rain revivals, many of which are extreme, bizarre, short-lived, and ultimately self-discrediting (e.g. the “holy laughter” phenomenon).

The attractiveness of the Latter Rain Movement is that it gives people something to hope for, even though the basis of that hope is not founded in Scripture or on truth. So many Christians take the pessimistic view that things are going to get worse till Jesus comes, that they are desperate for some Bible sounding reason to pray for revival and to hope for something good in their own life-time.

The reason for true hope will be another discussion. What I hope to establish in this article is to point out that there is no basis for the use of “latter rain” as a tag for end-time revival.

Do Not Be Deceived

Here @theWell, we are deeply committed to the Word of God as our source of spiritual truth. Our core values: B-A-R-E starts with “B” for “Biblical.” We say what Scripture says and will not say what Scripture does not say. It is clear that the “latter rain” basis of revival is incorrect. If there will be a revival, it cannot be found in the biblical references to the latter rain. The latter rain is no more and no less than a reference to the spring rain.

Many good things are done in spite of false hope. But we must not assume false hope is harmless. It leads to terrible disappointment, and perhaps even to the end-time rebellion Paul warns us about.

If good things can happen with false hope, imagine what God has in store for those who possess true hope.

Pastor Peter Eng


No comments yet

Comments are closed